February 14 2005


February 14 2005



Letters to the Editor: letters@macleans.ca

‘I read with disbelief the letters from Canadians who feel we’ve done enough for tsunami victims. Our own social problems are not comparable’. -Melanie Beson, Mississauga, ont.

The high cost of cancer

As a cancer patient, I read your cover package about the latest drugs (“The new cancer fighters,” Jan. 31) with great interest. But you only hinted at the high cost to both the health-care system and employer medical plans of some drugs involved in today’s high-tech world of oncology. I recently required a single injection to boost my white blood-cell count, and the cost to my insurer for a syringe containing 0.6 mL was $3,141.59. No wonder insurance plan premiums are skyrocketing. As we embrace these new cancer-fighting advances, we must accept that to pay for them requires big bucks.

Ramona Matthews, Etobicoke, Ont.

I am one of the statistics in your article, one of those being treated with “the wonder drug” Gleevec. The first time I was diagnosed with cancer, I had radical surgery. About a year later, I had a recurrence of the same cancer, GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumour). This time, surgery would have necessarily been more radical, and the oncologist and surgeon both recommended treatment with Gleevec instead. More than a year later, the cancer is still being managed with Gleevec at the cost of $3,500 per month, which thankfully is covered by private insurance and by the Ontario government’s Trillium Drug Program. But there are also hidden costs. Gleevec is not compatible with some medications, and in the past year I have been inhibited from using Lipitor for high cholesterol, Tylenol for pain (which means I have no alternative, since I am allergic to ibuprofen and Aspirin) and anti-malarials (when I travel overseas for work). Another significant, unseen cost is the emotional stress and frustration caused by the need to pay for expensive drugs up front and the inevitable maze of regulations and paperwork before I am reimbursed. Still, I sometimes wonder where I would be today without Gleevec. Despite the frustrations, and though we may not yet have a cure, I am able to live with cancer.

John Wilson, Mississauga, Ont.

A Canadian hero in La-La Land

I intended to see the movie Hotel Rwanda, thinking it might shed more light on the experiences of Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire (The Maclean’s Interview, Jan. 24). But it seems the powers that be in La-La Land find facts less than useful. Dallaire need not feel too badly at being ignored by Nick Nolte or anyone else attempting to recreate his character. We treasure our heroes, despite the ignorance of the movie moguls.

Barbara Fear, Amherstview, Ont.

As executive producer of Hotel Rwanda, like Lt.-Gen. Dallaire I feel slighted. Your movie reviewer Brian D. Johnson constructs an

interview with Dallaire on the assertion that Nick Nolte portrays him in our film. It is simply not true. Like Nolte, actors Joaquin Phoenix, Cara Seymour and David O’Hara all portray composite characters with fictitious names. The point of the composites is to focus the narrative on the personal struggle of the film’s subject, Paul Rusesabagina, and his family. Judging from the awards and overwhelming audience response, the film does this to great effect. The story of the overwhelming failure of the West to respond to the atrocities in Rwanda deserves to be told again and again, as do the stories of those heroes like Dallaire and Rusesabagina. I find it distracting and counterproductive that our film about the latter is scrutinized for what it doesn’t say about the former.

Martin Katz, president, Prospero Pictures, Toronto

When size doesn’t count

I am surprised that Peter C. Newman accepts the claims of Canada’s big bankers and others concerning the benefits of bank mergers (“Big five, small players,” Jan. 10). Every study has concluded that banks larger than Canada’s are less, not more, efficient, that larger banks provide worse service and that profitability, not size, is key to a bank’s success. Canada’s big banks are the most profitable in the world, in part because Ottawa has allowed them to close branches across the country and continues to allow them to gouge Canadians with excessive service charges and credit card interest rates as well as with corporate loan rates. Bank-insurance company mergers, which Newman seems to promote, also have to be treated carefully, as the capital bases of banks and insurance companies are very different and, when they are mixed, the risk of failure of the whole financial institution increases. Has the sorry saga of Confederation Life been forgotten already? If Ottawa allows mergers without increasing accountability, it will permit financial institutions to get bigger with no guarantee they will get better.

Duff Conacher, co-ordinator of Democracy Watch and chairperson of the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition, Ottawa

Competing with old king coal

Your Environment article “Will coal bury Kyoto” in the Jan 17 issue was very informative, but omitted any discussion of one non-polluting option—namely CANDU

Making it big I An

Olymplc-calibre athlete acts out her real dream

Too-tall wannabe actor Roger Currie got some empathy from a six-foot-three Vancouver reader on his Jan. 17 Over to You, “It’s always ‘Get Shorty!’ ” Wrote national volleyball team member Emily Cordonier: “I dream of acting, but it’d be so hard as a giantess. Your article brought a smile to my face and even hope for my future.” After the 2008 Olympics, that is.

reactors. Nuclear power is the real competition for coal and should be explained as thoroughly as possible so that Canadians can make sensible choices about energy. CANDU reactors are Canadian and offer us much better opportunities for increasing employment. They are also safe, inexpensive and clean—all the things that coal is not. Randal Leavitt, Ottawa

The daily grind

I just finished “The toxic workplace” (Business, Jan. 31), and it brought home the feelings I experienced in a former job. After 34 years as a nurse, I have learned that a leader helps others become the best they can be only by realizing that integrity always comes first. Being in a management position and being told what to do and not to ask questions, I felt downtrodden and unhappy in my job. I have now left management for a work environment that respects and values the individual and goes the extra mile for its employees. If you are not happy in your job, run, don’t walk, away from it.

Jo Dunbar, Seaforth, Ont.

I sympathize with frustrated people like your “53-year-old, overweight white guy” who quit his job as a vice-president of human resources at a bank just two years shy of retirement because he hated the new cutthroat environment. I spent nine months at an elearning firm that had every one of the toxic symptoms listed in your article. Employees were referred to as “resources,” not people, and although the company seemed caring on the surface, the bottom line was its only real concern. Getting laid off was a godsend! Beth Harding, Fredericton

Thank you for articulating the experience I have had with a recent employer. It’s nice to be able to apply a label to the situations I encountered and to know, although it’s not much of a consolation, that my experiences were not unique.

Marcus Lane, Newmarket, Ont.

Sudden impact

Over the past few weeks, I have seen numerous images of the tsunami disaster, including horrifying video clips on television, graphic images in magazines and newspapers and even digital images forwarded to me by email from friends who, like myself,

were unable to comprehend the magnitude of this tragedy. While viewing these images, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in, almost voyeuristically, at something that seemed so far away. I was unable to grasp the reality of it until I read Peter Mansbridge’s column “Horror on the beach” (Up Front, Jan. 31). Mansbridge was able to do with words what no visual image had yet done for me—put me in the picture. I was no longer a voyeur. I was there, walking the beach with him, and was able to experience both the reality and magnitude of it through his eyes. Well done.

Ron Hudson, Acton, Ont.

Thank you, Peter Mansbridge, for one of the most graphic and yet compassionate portrayals of the tsunami’s effects on our fellow man. The last two paragraphs, however, give readers the impression that one should wait before considering holidaying in Sri

Lanka, Phuket and other beach resorts hit by the waves. There is nothing further from the truth. Many of the people affected rely on tourism for their livelihood. Canadians have been very generous in their personal donations to relief agencies—they should now consider donating through tourism

dollars (and at the same time enjoy a fabulous holiday). The faster tourists return to their beaches, the faster these people can begin to rebuild their lives and their spirit. Judy Love-Eastham, Flong Kong

Warming trends

Your environmental articles were timely and informative, but I would like to offer one more tip (“101 easy ways to save the environment, and money too,” Cover, Jan. 24). Here in the North where temperatures drop as low as -40° C, we have learned to dress warmly both outdoors and in. By wearing a wool sweater over a cotton turtleneck with lined jeans and warm socks, I can keep my thermostat at 16° C during both the day and the night and be quite comfortable. Dorothy Farmiloe, Elk Lake, Ont.

Knitting despite needling

I always manage to find words of wisdom in every issue of Maclean’s, and your Jan. 17 Life article “Bullish woollies” was no exception. I have knitted for the past 30-plus years, and I have endured many scathing remarks from my male friends. “Real men” don’t knit, apparently. Still, I have knit anything and everything—including six or eight sweaters a year for my women friends. I have even made some money from it. I am now of an age when I can say knitting is not just good therapy, it is good arthritis therapy. One day I intend to master the art of crocheting.

John Macfarlane, Wolfville, N.S.

"I was no longer a voyeur. I was there walking the beach with Peter Mansbridge, experiencing the reality.